RCS chat: What is it, and how is it activated?

RCS, or “Rich Communication Services” in full, is a communication standard for the mobile network. RCS chat will soon be available to everyone, including Android and iPhone. We explain how it works and the advantages and disadvantages of RCS chat.

The RCS standard is a chat service that offers almost all the features that messengers such as WhatsApp or Signal contain. But if these features are already included in our favorite messengers, why should we use these “rich communication services”?

RCS Messenger – Apple’s iMessage for Android?
RCS is actually about providing a messenger that can cover all mobile message types at once. Google‘s SMS app “Messages” has been this app for some time now. It is usually used for SMS or MMS, but it can also fulfill all the other functions that messengers need to have these days.

The unique feature is that, depending on availability, either the Internet (mobile or Wi-Fi) or the mobile network is used for transmission. Initially, widespread use failed because the respective provider also had to support the RCS transmission protocol. Still, Google has now taken the lead and allows this data to be encrypted via its servers.

The system also has disadvantages: while WhatsApp users, for example, can essentially be indifferent to what kind of cell phone their chat partners have, RCS messengers are currently still limited to Android, and it will be some time before this changes. If I send a message to an iPhone with “Google Messages,” it arrives via the mobile network as an SMS or MMS. However, Apple’s resistance has now softened: RCS chat will also be available for the iPhone in 2024. However, Apple wants to go its own way regarding encryption.

How to activate RCS chat functions
Current Android phones usually contain the RCS-enabled app “Messages” and sometimes other manufacturer apps that support the standard, such as “Samsung Messages.”

You may need to activate the “Chat functions” before you can use “Messages” for SMS and chat at the same time.

How to activate RCS:

  1. Open the “Messages” app.
  2. Tap on your profile picture in the overview at the top right to open the menu.
  3. Then tap on “Messages settings” and then on “RCS chats”.
  4. If you have not already done so, turn on the switch next to “Activate RCS chats”. Below this, you can set further options, such as a read confirmation.
  5. You can now use “Messages” to send and text messages via the Internet.

The system recognizes whether the other party can receive your message in this way. If not, it will be sent as an SMS.

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